Dear Secretary Jewell and Director Ashe:
We are writing in response to notice published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the October 2, 2013 Federal Register (78 Fed. Reg. 61046) in which the Service proposed to list the Northern Long-Eared Bat as an endangered species. This notice also published the decision on listing the Eastern Small-Footed Bat as "not warranted." We believe the Service has demonstrated insufficient scientific data to support this decision and lacks adequate legal authority to move forward with this designation.
In its Federal Register notice, the Service cites the effects of White-Nose Syndrome as the lone basis for its proposed endangered listing. Although the disease is impacting the Northern Long-Eared Bat in areas of 38-states, the Service has acknowledged that the economic activities that would be most affected by the proposed listing have had little impact on population numbers or the decline of the species. Furthermore, as demonstrated within the existing administrative record, there is scientific disagreement over the bat's population levels and trends and the spread and effect of White Nose Syndrome on the species.
We remain gravely concerned that this designation would be fundamentally ineffective, yet would have significant and far-reaching impacts on key areas of economic activity in Pennsylvania and other areas, including home building, commercial development, farming, energy development, manufacturing, and even land management for ecological purposes. Given these concerns, we request the Service obtain a six-month extension on the deadline for making a final listing decision for the species so that it may evaluate this information fully.
If, after reconsidering the information in the administrative record and compiling and considering the best available information, the Service continues to believe that the bat warrants listing or necessary tools for protection, it should list the species as threatened. Such a listing would provide ample protections for the bat and allow the Service to promulgate a special § 4(d) rule that could be used to address the threats of White Nose Syndrome while allowing activities that minimally affect the bat to continue.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your prompt response.